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Coronavirus - 7th April 2021


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Post by Kitkat Wed Apr 07 2021, 13:07

Summary for Wednesday, 7th April

  • Carer Elle Taylor, 24, from Ammanford in Wales is the first person to receive the Moderna vaccine in the UK
  • The UK has ordered 17 million doses of Moderna - the third vaccine used
  • European medicines regulator the EMA is to hold a briefing this afternoon on the AstraZeneca vaccine relating to cases of blood clots
  • Health ministers from the 27 EU member nations are due to meet afterwards to discuss the findings
  • UK regulator MHRA is also expected to give an update on its investigation
  • A trial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab on children in the UK is being paused
  • Brazil records more than 4,000 Covid-related deaths in a days for first time
  • Driving lessons can resume in England and Wales from Monday, the transport secretary says
  • The US rules out a vaccination passport scheme for citizens

Hello and welcome to our coronavirus pandemic live coverage.
We will be bringing you updates from around the world throughout the day.

Headlines from across the UK

Here is what is happening in the across UK today.

What the papers are saying

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Wednesday's papers feature plenty of coverage of concerns about the safety of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.

  • The Guardian leads on quotes from the prime minister urging people to keep getting vaccines, despite a trial of the jab in children being put on hold.
  • In the Times' view, any decision to limit the jab's use will not only be a big setback for the UK's vaccination programme, but also "seriously damage hopes that the world can bring the pandemic under control this year".
  • The Daily Telegraph's front page features a suggestion from a member of the government's immunisation advisory committee that vaccines should be paused for people under the age of 50 until the safety of the Oxford jab can be fully established.
  • The Sun' s editorial pours scorn on Covid certificates - not, it says, because of concerns over the infringement of liberties, but because "by the time they are finally introduced they may be a pointless, disastrous waste of money".
  • The Daily Mirror's leader urges ministers to provide evidence to back up why such widespread checks would be needed, to avoid the prospect of a backlash from the public.

Read more here .

Latest across Europe

  • Hungary is reopening shops and resuming services this morning as Covid restrictions are eased, even though the hospitals are full and some 250 people are dying every day. Hungary has a relatively high vaccination rate so Prime Minister Viktor Orban says he feels a “moral imperative” to open up.
  • Turkey has declared a record 49,584 new cases in the past 24 hours and another 211 deaths. It too is moving ahead fast with its vaccination campaign with more than 10 million people receiving a first dose.
  • The EU’s medicines agency EMA is expected to update its advice later today on the safety of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of rare blood clots. The agency has consistently said benefits of the drug outweigh the risks.
  • One of the favourites to replace Angela Merkel as Germany’s chancellor, Markus Söder, has backed a so-called “bridging lockdown” of two to three weeks until vaccinations help cut the rate of infection.The idea came from the leader of Merkel’s CDU party, Armin Laschet, even though he’s previously resisted calls for tougher measures. Infections in the past 24 hours are below 10,000, which is well down on a week ago. Germany’s network of family doctors has begun taking part in the vaccination campaign.
  • An overnight curfew in Hanover in northern Germany has been lifted after a court declared it probably unlawful. The court said existing measures had not properly been enforced and a curfew should only be seen as a last resort.
  • Two Italian police were hurt yesterday in scuffles during a Rome protest by traders and restaurant owners calling for a reopening of businesses. Extremist groups reportedly infiltrated the protest.
  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has blamed the EU for the slow rollout of vaccinations. Italy blocked 250,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca doses last month but Morrison also says EU export controls have meant another 3.1 million doses are still to arrive. However, EU officials reportedly say it’s the drug’s producer and not them holding things up.

Today so far…

The Guardian

  • The European Medicines Agency will give a briefing at 1600 CET (1500 GMT) on the safety of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and its possible links to blood clots. Yesterday it denied it had already established a causal connection between the vaccine and a rare blood clotting syndrome.
  • The Castile and León region in Spain has suspended using AstraZeneca shots on people under 65 until it receives further clarification from the European Medicines Agency.
  • The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK is also expected to issue an update .
  • The UK meanwhile is beginning to rollout a third vaccine – the Moderna shot – in Wales today. 24 year old unpaid carer Elle Taylor got the first jab at the West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen.
  • Brazil’s coronavirus catastrophe has deepened further after more than 4,000 daily deaths were reported for the first time. “It’s a nuclear reactor that has set off a chain reaction and is out of control. It’s a biological Fukushima,” said Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian doctor and professor at Duke University in the US, who is closely tracking the virus.
  • One in three people who were severely ill with coronavirus were subsequently diagnosed with a neurological or psychiatric condition within six months of infection, a US study has found.
  • Poland is to extend its coronavirus restrictions until 18 April. Kindergartens, shopping centres, hotels, cinemas and theatres will remain closed. The health minister said that 90% of cases in Poland were the more infections B.1.1.7 variant.
  • The B.1.1.7 variant has been detected for the first time in Thailand, where at least ten cabinet ministers and dozens of lawmakers are self-isolating today after coming into contact with positive coronavirus cases.
  • Restrictions on exporting its Covid vaccines have left India’s Serum Institute needing financial help from the government, its CEO said. Without the higher prices charged for vaccines going out of the country, it says it is unable to invest in increasing production.
  • It is World Health Day, and the director general of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has been hammering home on social media his message that global inequality has exacerbated the impact of the novel coronavirus, and that an inequitable distribution of vaccines could prolong the effects of the pandemic.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Apr 07 2021, 15:15

AstraZeneca jab concerns taken 'very seriously'

On Tuesday a trial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine involving children was paused while the UK's medicines regulator investigates a possible link with rare blood clots in adults.
Adam Finn, a professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol who also sits on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), says concerns over the jab are being taken "very seriously" and "very thoroughly" investigated.
He tells BBC Radio 4's Today programme what "stands out" about the clot cases is they involve "low platelet count".
He says it "could potentially" affect the rollout of the vaccine but says: "What we urgently need to understand, if this is a causal thing, is whether that risk-benefit ratio stands up when you get down to younger ages."

Possibility different jabs could be offered to certain age groups

We have some more comments on the possible link between the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine and rare blood clots , which is being investigated by medical regulators.
GP Dr Ellie Cannon tells BBC Breakfast the rate of deaths for this type of blood clot has been about one in 2.5 million people.
She says that, in contrast, among 2.5 million 40-year-olds with Covid "we would expect around 2,000 deaths", adding the risk of a clot is "incredibly rare".
Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol, says it is possible different vaccines could be offered to different age groups as more jabs come on stream.
"As time goes forward we will have much more flexibility about who can be offered what," he says.
"On the other hand, we do need to keep the programme going if the plan to open things up and allow things to get back to normal is to proceed without another wave of the pandemic coming through."
The European medicines watchdog is expected to announce the results of its investigation today or tomorrow.

Researchers find Covid link with neurological conditions

People diagnosed with Covid-19 in the previous six months are more likely to develop depression, dementia, psychosis and stroke , researchers say.
A third of those with a previous Covid infection went on to develop or have a relapse of a psychological or neurological condition.
But those admitted to hospital or in intensive care had an even higher risk.
This is likely to be down to both the effects of stress, and the virus having a direct impact on the brain.
UK scientists looked at the electronic medical records of more than half a million patients in the US, and their chances of developing one of 14 common psychological or neurological conditions.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Apr 07 2021, 15:21

Brazil records more than 4,000 deaths in a single day

Brazil has recorded more than 4,000 Covid-related deaths in 24 hours for the first time, as a more contagious variant fuels a surge in cases.
It takes the country's death toll from the pandemic to almost 337,000, second only to the US.
Hospitals are overcrowded, with people dying as they wait for treatment in some cities, and the health system is on the brink of collapse in many areas.
But President Jair Bolsonaro continues to oppose any lockdown measures to curb the outbreak.
He argues the damage to the economy would be worse than the effects of the virus itself, and has tried to reverse some of the restrictions imposed by local authorities in the courts.
Read more here .

New York shows how Covid passports could work in the UK

BBC Radio 5 Live
New York has become the first US state to introduce a Covid passport, known as the Excelsior Pass.
Talking to BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast, Yuelin Li, from the tech company Onfido, which specialises in identity verification, explained how the digital pass works.
"You go onto the New York government website, you enter some personal information, such as your date of birth, when you’ve had the vaccine, and so on," she said.
"That generates a personalised QR code to store on your phone… and that QR code is linked on the back to health records and it is dynamic so it means that if you had an antigen test [also known as a rapid test] the code is valid for six hours, if you have a PCR test it is six days.
"If you had Covid and have recovered it is about six months, and then for the vaccine itself, if you've had both doses... it's much longer."

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Post by Kitkat Wed Apr 07 2021, 15:25

Driving lessons to resume in England and Wales from Monday

Welcome news for thousands of budding learner drivers - driving lessons can resume in England and Wales from Monday, the transport secretary says.
Grant Shapps has tweeted that lessons can start on 12 April, with tests to be allowed 10 days later.
He says the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency would offer more tests and examiners so "many learners can take a test with all necessary safety measures in place".

When will I get the vaccine?

We've been bringing you updates from Camarthenshire, Wales, where the first doses of the Moderna jab in the UK are being rolled out.
As it stands, more than 31 million people here have already have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and more than five million have also had their second dose.
Vaccines supplies are expected to be delayed in April, but the government insists the remaining 21 million people will still be offered their first dose by the end of July.
However people under 50 without underlying medical conditions in England may now have to wait until May for their first jab.
Find out when you're likely to get your first and second doses.

Brazilian crisis is a threat to the planet - doctor

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A packed railway station in Sao Paulo on Tuesday

Now some more about the implications of the alarming situation in Brazil which, as we said earlier, has seen its daily number of Covid-related deaths pass 4,000 for the first time .
Dr Miguel Nicolelis, who has been closely tracking cases in the country, told the BBC his country was now a "threat to the entire effort of the international community to control the pandemic".
"If Brazil is not under control, then the planet is not going to be safe, because we are brewing new variants every week... and they are going to cross borders," he said.
President Jair Bolsonaro continues to oppose any lockdown measures to curb the outbreak, arguing that the damage to the economy would be worse than the effects of the virus itself.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Apr 07 2021, 15:29

White House rules out federal Covid passports

We've reported how New York became the first US state to introduce a digital Covid passport, known as the Excelsior Pass, but it has to be stressed that the White House is firmly opposed to bringing in mandatory federal passports.
Schemes to introduce such passports have been touted around the world as a way to enable safe circulation of people while fighting the pandemic.
But critics argue such documents could be discriminatory and the White House said it did not and would not support a "system that requires Americans to carry a credential" .
The US has reported more than 550,000 deaths linked to the virus and nearly 31 million cases, the highest numbers in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University

Breaking News 

TV briefing on AstraZeneca jab and blood clots

The UK medicines regulator will give an update on its investigation into whether the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is directly causing rare brain blood clots in a televised briefing at 15:00 BST.
The briefing will be led by Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine, chair of the Committee of Human Medicines Sir Munir Pirmohamed, and chair of the JCVI - which advises ministers on vaccines - Professor Wei Shen.
At the same time, the European medicines regulator is due to provide its update on the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.
We will bring you live updates and analysis as they happen from both briefings.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Apr 07 2021, 15:31

Merkel backs short national lockdown for Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel favours a short, nationwide lockdown for Germany to fight the pandemic, a spokesperson says.
The country has seen various forms of shutdown over the winter but is struggling to bring cases of infection under control. Under its federal system, each of the 16 states can ultimately decide its own rules.
This variety of rules "is not contributing to security and acceptance at the moment", spokesperson Ulrike Demmer told reporters, and the health system "is under intense pressure".
The number of free intensive care beds in the country has fallen to the lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic, German magazine Focus reports .
Germany, which has the largest economy and biggest population in the EU, has recorded nearly 77,500 deaths from Covid-19 and nearly 2.9 million cases of infection, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Apr 07 2021, 15:36

Latest developments ahead of AstraZeneca jab briefings

In the next hour, there will be briefings from both the UK and European medicines regulators on the possible link between the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots.
Here are some of the latest developments from around the world today:

EU medicines agency will also update on safety of AstraZeneca jab

At the same time as the UK briefing, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will brief reporters on the findings of its review of the safety of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.
Experts examined whether there was a causal link between the vaccine and rare blood clots after Germany, France and the Netherlands suspended use of the vaccine for younger people over the issue.
We'll bring you the latest from the EMA's briefing here, too.

Breaking News 

Benefits of AstraZeneca jab outweigh risks - EU regulator

We've just heard that the EU medicine regulator's review of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has concluded that "unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects".
"The reported combination of blood clots and low blood platelets is very rare, and the overall benefits of the vaccine in preventing Covid-19 outweigh the risks of side effects," the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said.
Most of the cases reported had occurred in women under 60 years of age within two weeks of vaccination.
The regulator said that one plausible explanation for the combination of blood clots and low blood platelets was an "immune response, leading to a condition similar to one seen sometimes in patients treated with heparin (heparin induced thrombocytopenia, HIT)".

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Post by Kitkat Wed Apr 07 2021, 22:36

79 cases of rare blood clots reported after Oxford jab, says MHRA chief

Dr June Raine says the role of the medicines regulator, the MHRA, is to confirm that the vaccines are performing as expected, to identify any very rare side effects and to ensure the benefits outweigh the risks.
She says: "The public's safety is at the forefront of our minds."
She says that up to 31 March, 20m doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine were given and 79 cases of rare blood clots were reported.
All 79 cases occured after the first dose and 19 people sadly died, Raine says.
Of the cases, 51 were women and 28 men aged 18 to 79 years old.
She said the risk of this kind of side effect was about four in one million to those who receive the vaccine.
"This is extremely rare and the balance of benefits and known risks of the vaccine is still very favourable for the vast number of people," she adds.

Further advice issued for groups over Oxford jab

Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chairman of the Committee of Human Medicines, tells the briefing it has decided on the following advice:

  • Pregnant women should continue to discuss with their doctor whether the benefit of having the vaccine outweigh the risks
  • People with a history of blood disorders that increase the risk of blood clotting should only have the AstraZeneca jab where benefits outweigh potential risks
  • People who experienced clots after their first dose should not receive the second jab

He says the committee will continue monitoring the data so it can refine the advice
"It is important to remember that Covid-19 itself causes clotting and it causes lower platelets," he says.
The link between the vaccine and blood clots is getting firmer but an absolute link will need extensive scientific work, he says.

Van-Tam explains potential risks and benefits of the Oxford vaccine

England’s deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam now takes us through some data on the potential benefits and harms from Covid vaccines.
In a scenario of low exposure - where Covid rates are lower than the current rates in the UK - for those aged 20-29 the risk-benefit is "relatively finely balanced", he says.
However, in older age groups, the figures are "overwhelmingly in favour" of the vaccine, he adds.
In a medium risk scenario, where Covid rates are marginally higher than the current UK average, the "potential benefits start to stack up" but the serious harms remain static, he continues.
In a high exposure risk, comparable to the height of the second wave in the UK, even in the 20-29 age group, the potential benefits in terms of averting intensive care admissions is "very much higher" than the potential serious harms caused by the vaccine.
Prof Van-Tam says that this is why the UK's regulator has come to the conclusion it has.

At-a-glance: What did we learn from UK vaccine briefing?

The briefing from the UK medicines regulator, the MHRA, has just finished, as Prof Jonathan Van-Tam says the change in advice for the under-30s "is a course correction but nevertheless the UK vaccination programme is full speed ahead".
Here's a summary of the key points:

  • The benefits of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for the "vast majority of people", according to the MHRA
  • The risk of rare blood clots remains "extremely small", MHRA chief Dr June Raine said
  • She said "the evidence is firming up" but the MHRA's review has concluded that "while it's a strong possibility, more work is needed to establish beyond all doubt that the vaccine has caused these side effects"
  • The JCVI has advised that under-30s with no underlying health conditions should be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine where available
  • Those who have received their first dose of the AZ jab should continue to be offered a second dose of the same jab
  • Prof Van-Tam said the impact of the change on the timing of the UK's vaccine programme "should be zero or negligible"

Read more here .

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Post by Kitkat Wed Apr 07 2021, 22:43

Another 45 deaths recorded in the UK

While the briefing was under way, the daily coronavirus statistics update for the UK was published .
A further 45 deaths have been recorded within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test. It takes the total by this measure to 126,927.
And there were 2,763 new Covid cases reported.
Meanwhile, another 85,227 have had the first dose of a vaccine and 186,793 more people have received a second jab.
It means a total of 31,707,594 people have now had a first jab in the UK and 5,683,509 have had both doses.

'No time to think about vaccines in Brazil'

As Europe considers the next steps over possible side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine, let's turn to a country in Latin America where the ravages of the pandemic are so bad that such issues feel remote right now.
We've already reported about the crisis in Brazil where the daily number of Covid-related deaths passed 4,000 for the first time .
Dr Pedro Hallal, an epidemiologist from the Federal University of Pelotas in the south of the country, has now described people's desperation in an interview for BBC World Service.
“Our situation is so severe now, with the cases, deaths and ICU [intensive care unit] occupancy, that we pretty much don’t have time to think about the vaccines," he said.
"Unfortunately that is not a priority right now – which is difficult to understand, but this is where we are in Brazil. It’s impossible to be positive nowadays in Brazil.
“Most Brazilian scientists are saying that if the world doesn’t focus on Brazil right now, then maybe the vaccination [success] in other countries might be lost, if a new variant is likely to develop here in Brazil."

Re-cap: What happened today?

Here's a summary of the main stories today:

Thanks for joining us

That's it from us this Wednesday evening. We'll be back on Thursday with all the latest coronavirus news from around the world.

Today's live page was edited by James Clarke and George Bowden, and written by Doug Faulkner, Becky Morton, Jen Meierhans and Patrick Jackson.

    Current date/time is Mon May 17 2021, 14:26